I am not a Picasso, a brutal misogynist who inflicted terror on nearly every female around him. Neither am I a Hemingway, a drunken lout given to baring his chest and knuckles at the drop of a hat. I adore Van Gogh, but I would not cut off my ear for anyone. I respect the dramatic accomplishments of Elizabeth Taylor, a woman who's gone through nearly as many husbands as she has major roles. To my mind, Tolstoy is the world's greatest novelist, even though he was impossible to live with.

I am an artist, but I don't think of myself as a social misfit or a study in pathology. I believe that art requires balance and design, commitment and zeal, the diligence of our closest attention, but not insanity or bizarre antics. I do not take the stage unprepared. I believe I know Willy Loman, even though he never existed except on paper. I have done Hamlet's soliloquies with such fierce regard for the young prince that even today I could do "To be or not to be" and wring passion from my own hesitations.

I adore grand opera, Brahms's Requiem, and anything by Verdi. I wouldn't think of spending a Christmas without Handel. I once thought Andrew Wyeth too garishly ordinary, but he haunted me until I could not resist him, and now my home is filled with his paintings.

I despise kitsch and almost everything sold in media stores, save the Bible, most of C. S. Lewis, and a few CDs no one else buys. Most of rock music I find to be noise. It's difficult to believe that television could be more of a wasteland than Newton Minnow called it more than three decades ago, but it is. Most of evangelical Christendom's antics, from California Magic Kingdoms to the nearest suburb's faddish megachurch, I find unseemly.

I'm sorry. I'm not nice. I don't like smiley ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.